Nobody can deny helping others in need is a positive thing. UK aid spending means we can help countries suffering disasters, strengthen national security and governance, and promote global prosperity, creating self-sufficient economies which turn into our trading partners of the future.
It's this last aspect that the Prime Minister wants to prioritise at this time, ensuring we strike the right balance between underpinning our own national interest while also tackling such challenges as extreme poverty, modern slavery, and trafficking in people. Her visit to Africa at the end of last month heralded a renewed focus on our relationship with the continent as we seek to build cooperation around the world.
As a former member of the International Development Select Committee, I know just how vital our aid spending is to improving people's lives. I was particularly pleased to learn we are stepping up our partnership with Nigeria - a place that holds particular resonance for me as the country of my father's birth – through targeted public information campaigns and youth engagement to reduce vulnerabilities to trafficking. We will also be launching a new project with the Nigerian and French authorities to strengthen border cooperation to prevent trafficking, as well as helping us to bring more traffickers to justice.
In terms of the trade aspect of the Prime Minister's visit, I have always been convinced of the wide-ranging opportunities for British trade and investment in sub-Saharan Africa and led a trade mission for Africa House London to Nigeria last November. Our visit, to both the capital Abuja and Lagos, its most populous city, was designed to boost direct trade between British businesses and firms in the wider region. Our delegation gained a fantastic insight into Nigeria's investment climate through our meetings with companies and senior government ministers – who let us know, in no uncertain terms, they were open for business.
From this experience, I believe sectors such as agriculture and fisheries, legal services, infrastructure and technology will be key to ensuring the first of many mutually beneficial partnerships as we seek to become the largest G7 investor in Africa by 2022.
It's the technology sector in particular where UK companies can really add value in Africa, and fortunately it's also been identified as such by the government. During her visit Theresa May announced the first UK-Africa FinTech partnership which will see expertise from across the City of London used to support entrepreneurs and improve access to financial services for consumers. In this way we can encourage new investment into the African economy, potentially reducing migration outflow as skilled workers seek employment abroad, as well as giving us access to an untapped market.
There are also areas where our tech expertise and investment intersect with our aid programme, such as the new cyber centre announced for Kenya to help tackle child sexual abuse. Currently, Kenyan authorities do not receive reports of child sexual abuse materials, as the secure channels required for global tech companies to share them do not exist there. This new centre – the first of its kind in Africa – will finally allow Kenyan police to identify potential victims, investigate abuse, and prosecute abusers.
Being able to more closely align our development spending with opportunities to help grow a market which is on the cusp of making a lasting mark on the global economy should set the stage for a mutually beneficial partnership between our nations in the years to come.
This is a comment for The Voice newspaper written by Helen Grant MP within her role as Vice Chair (Communities) of the Conservative Party.
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